Review by Frank Plowright
Anyone hoovering up Carl Barks’ work in collected form may feel it hasn’t been that long since the previous story of Uncle Scrooge in space. In fact the interstellar race featured in 24’s ‘Twenty Four Carat Moon’ appeared in December 1958, fifteen months separating it from ‘Island in the Sky’ here. The reason for the space travel is a Barks perennial, Scrooge again concerned about keeping his money as safe as possible, which isn’t on Earth. If he stores it on a distant asteroid it’ll be well beyond the reach of thieves.
This is one of Barks’ more surreal Scrooge stories, from the compact opening explaining Duckburg’s technological advancements, through the magnificently designed variety of spacecraft to the bizarre planetary forms and their inhabitants. It’s largely a series of gags strung together than a solid plot, but they’re funny gags, and once the plot manifests eight pages from the end in the form of natives barely surviving on a rocky outcrop, the story is touching and humane. Scrooge and Donald are cast in the roles of ignorant colonisers, Donald even firing a gun to scare people, while Huey, Dewey and Louie, prompted by the code of the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook, are more enlightened, initiating communication. It’s fun, eventually has a message (not least Donald destroying his gun) and when reprinted in the bulkier hardcover collection Uncle Scrooge: Island in the Sky, it’s noted that it numbered among Barks’ favourites of his Uncle Scrooge stories.
‘Hound of the Whiskervilles’ suggests Barks is channelling Sherlock Holmes in the back-up strip, and that eventually manifests, but the greater concerns are Barks poking fun at abstract art and that wealth doesn’t automatically confer class. Scrooge is annoyed at not being considered good enough to dine at a wealthy Duckburg club, and believes if he can confirm his status with the old McDuck tartan his stock will rise. He journeys to Scotland to locate the family tartan, and that’s when the terrible, howling hound is introduced. The way three completely disparate elements are weaved together is smart, and this is another story Don Rosa would later revisit during The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck.